Why does my Cat Roll in Dirt When It's Hot?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

As any cat lover knows only too well, cats have minds of their own. Cats eat when they choose, sleep when they like and choose to show affection on their own timetable. Along with these traits, it is also true that cats roll in dirt when they choose to do so. But is there any reason behind this seemingly unusual behavior, or is it just a way of keeping their owners in line? Actually, there is a very logical reason why cats roll in the dirt when it is hot, or even when the weather is cold.

A cat might roll in dirt to regain beneficial bacteria lost after a bath.
A cat might roll in dirt to regain beneficial bacteria lost after a bath.

Cat behavior is not an area where mere humans can exercise a great deal of control. When it comes to the condition of the cat’s coat, it is important to remember that cats have their own sense of personal hygiene. You may have observed that your cat will spend a fair amount of time in grooming. One reason for this is that your cat’s coat contains bacteria that are actually good for the internal operation of your cat’s body. During the process of grooming, the cat is able to ingest these bacteria, allowing them to aid in proper digestion and function of vital organs. While the end result that you see is a perfectly coiffed feline, the more important thing that occurs is your cat is remaining healthy and feeling good.

Humans can rarely exercise much control over cat behavior.
Humans can rarely exercise much control over cat behavior.

Unfortunately, many cat lovers like to pamper their pets by giving them frequent baths. While it is true that some cats enjoy the baths, the fact is that bathing your cat too frequently is actually harming your pet. Bathing washes away a good share of these bacteria that your cat would otherwise ingest and use to stay healthy. Without the bacteria, your cat will feel sickly.

When cats roll in dirt, what is really happening is that the feline is replacing that much needed bacteria that has been depleted due to frequent baths or some other factor, such as combing. Your cat understands that when it rolls in the dirt, the good bacteria will be restored, and will do what nature had wired the cat to do. This will mean cats rolling in the dirt. While you may see a cat with a dirty coat, cats roll in dirt in order to have a steady supply of nature’s medicine. In turn, they will have what they need to provide energy, aid in digestion, and keep the heart ticking along at a proper pace.

If your cats roll in dirt, or if your cats roll in dust bunnies under the bed, they are trying to tell you something. Cut back on the number of baths you give your cat during the course of a month. Also, you may want to check the number of times you comb your pet during the week and cut back on those as well. This should help maintain a proper amount of bacteria in the coat, so the incidence of your cats rolling in dust and dirt should decrease.

Of course, there is also the chance that your cat enjoys the feel of the gritty dirt, perhaps as a soothing way to settle an itch. You may want to have the vet examine your pet and ensure the skin does not have a rash of some sort. Alternatively, your pet may enjoy the scent of the dirt and have no problems whatsoever, other than the fact that the humans seem to want to kill all the fun.

Cats rolling in dirt is not unusual behavior. Make sure you are not bathing and combing your pet too frequently, and also check for any type of skin condition that may be causing your pet discomfort. If none of these situations exist, then you may just have to live with the reality that your cat loves a roll in the dirt. Remember to see the phenomenon of cats rolling in dirt through the eyes of your pet and not through your own ideas. After all, cats always know better anyway.

If bathed and combed less frequently, cats may roll in dirt less often.
If bathed and combed less frequently, cats may roll in dirt less often.
Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I have four cats. My 10 year old female is a black short hair and stays inside mostly. My three year old is a long haired black female. I also have a black and white female short hair that was a stray, and a gray and white male short hair that is a year old.

My two black cats do not roll in the dirt, however, my black/white and gray/white always do! The male is the son of the stray female. I always figured it was their way of hiding their scent from prey, considering they are the only cats I have that actually hunt on a regular basis. I never bathe or brush any of my cats!! So, I know that's not the case.

My cats are on a regular diet of Purina for indoor cats. That's all they have ever eaten (besides the occasional bird, lizard or rabbit). I am still not sure why, but I think I will stick to the bacteria reason and the scent covering reason.


I don't think cats roll in dirt for the bacteria. My cat rolls in dirt all the time (hot or cold weather) then she dozes off. I think they just like rolling on the ground to stretch or to remove excess fur. She rolls after i mop, but that's because she loves the smell of ammonia.


I think StrayKitty has the right of it. We've noticed with our cats. Two of our black ones (one has passed) turn themselves into tortoise shells (southern red dirt) every chance they get. Our very pale yellow tabby never rolls, though she would be fun to see with the red dirt.

On the other hand, three other cats (another one who passed) never roll. So, the general consensus here is that cats are just strange beings, thank goodness.


amazing article. thanks from my cat that you have let me understand him better.


We are overlooking the obvious, folks; cats roll in the dirt for the same reason that they do so many things -- they do it to annoy us. When I'm with my cat near a dirt road I can tell instantly when she's about to throw herself on her back and roll around.

She'll pause and look up with a glance that says, "Yes, and tonight I will curl up on the white couch." (I must admit that despite the dirt rolling she does do a great job of keeping herself very clean.)


this is a ridiculous bogus explanation. I have a short-haired cat who is eight years old, and I have never given her a bath (as cats take care of that themselves) nor do I need to comb her hair because it's short. Yet she rolls in the dirt outside a couple of times a day.


Cats don't need to be bathed by humans! They are naturally clean creatures and a little brushing is sufficient. When a cat gets mud on its coat it should be allowed to dry and then brushed out.

A cat should only be bathed when it has come across something sticky or smelly, Or when it has fleas.

But bathing because of fleas is only temporary. The cats should have a flea treatment obtained from a vet.


How often should we bathe our cats?


I have an indoor/outdoor cat. My thoughts on this were that the cat was "de-scenting" herself the way hunters use odor eliminators so as not to spook their quarry.


My cat eats dirt, is he missing something in his diet? He eats a variety of food. He is about 21 years old and very petite at 4.75lbs. He is only allowed on the back deck when we're present and proceeds to eat top soil from planters. (this is not potting soil) Should I let him do it?


In years of cat ownership I have noticed my dark or black colored ones roll more in the dirt. I think it may be that their dark fur absorbs more heat from the sun and when dirt is on them it has a reflective cooling effect. We live in a hot region and my black cats always roll in the dirt the minute they are turned outside. I never bath them, and don't comb that often. They all do some, but I think the dark ones more so. Maybe!


I have noticed that when there is a lot of static in the air my cats will roll frequently in the dirt. I thought it was to remove the static build-up in their fur. It does seem to help.


There may be some elements in those substances that attract your cat on some level. After all, feces and vomit are natural occurring substances just like dirt. It may simply be something missing from the diet. Check with the vet and see what he or she says about making dietary changes to help with this behavior.


We have a new kitten. Six months old, spayed and dying to go outside. I've always let me cats go out and planned on letting this one go out. Problem is that one time she rolled in vomit! Don't know the story, another time she rolled in feces! Of course she bathed her each time but why is my cat rolling in foul things? I get rolling in dirt, catnip etc. but come on, this is gross! Any help is appreciated.

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